February 10, 2017

free kitchen essentials from Grove Collaborative...

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It's been a while since I've been able to share an offer from the folks over at Grove Collaborative, and this month I'm happy to share a free kitchen essentials kit—including some goodness from Mrs. Meyer's! I've been using the geranium hand soap since we moved in to our new home, and I love how it smells like springtime. (I'm lucky enough to be enjoying what feels like springtime here in Southern California. February is the one month of the entire year I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. Yes, I feel quite spoiled. And reminded why real estate prices are crazypants around here.)

To those of you who are unfamiliar with Grove Collaborative, they're a company that delivers natural cleaning, beauty, home and baby products to your door every month. I've been a customer for what feels like ages now, and I continue ordering from them nearly every month. They consistently send out emails with additional promotions or discounts on products, so I definitely see a value in remaining a customer! They also have excellent customer service, which is always something that makes me happy.
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Here is what you'll receive for free (a $25 value) as a new customer with any purchase of $20 or more:
  • Mrs. Meyer's hand soap
  • Mrs. Meyer's dish soap
  • Grove Collaborative walnut scrubber sponges
  • Grove Collaborative kitchen towel
  • Free shipping + free 60 day VIP membership
You can choose from a variety of scents before you check out, if geranium isn't your jam. (I personally recommend the basil scent—it's my favorite.) Also, I must say, I have a small collection of those kitchen towels and use them as hand towels in our bathrooms and absolutely adore them. As for the VIP membership, it guarantees free shipping on every order, extra freebies several times a year, and access to special discounts and promotions.

Here's how to snag your free products:

— New customers sign up here. (Please note they do not currently ship to Canada, Hawaii or Alaska!)

— Answer a few questions to help customize your first order with items you may enjoy (this only takes a few seconds).

— Fill your basket with at least $20 of products and the four products mentioned in this post will be completely free (be sure to choose which scents you'd prefer!) and you'll receive free shipping.

— Finish and pay and look forward to your first box o' goodness.

Pssst! Are you already a customer? You can click here to add one Mrs. Meyer's hand soap to your next order, absolutely free.

This offer is good through Sunday, February 12th. Be sure to order this weekend if you want to take advantage of the free products! If you end up trying anything fantastic, let me know, because I love adding new things to my monthly shipments.

Affiliate links included in this post; view my disclosure policy here. As always, I appreciate your support!

February 8, 2017

places I've called home...

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Right after Jay and I were married, I moved into the apartment he had rented right before the wedding. To be honest, I don't even remember looking at it beforehand, which I realize now is so out of character for me and shows I really knew nothing about the state of rentals in this part of the country. I'm sure that no matter what, having a place of my own to share with my husband was an odd mix of novelty and luxury—mostly because I'd never lived on my own before being married. I didn't really know what to expect. I remember the first night we were there after being married, and I looked at my purse on the table by the front door. I had the sudden thought of, "Oh, wait. I don't have to leave. I get to stay. I live here."

I was only twenty-one and hardly knew myself, let alone how to keep a home. I remember lamenting the fact we didn't have curtains. I remember making a lot of Hamburger Helper and frozen pizzas. I'm pretty sure we drank a lot of margaritas. I also remember having absolutely nothing to decorate with and absolutely no money to buy anything to decorate with and wondering how it always seemed like other newlyweds had it all figured out and I totally didn't.

The only neighbor we ever talked to was a sweet old woman with several cats and a strong European accent. She would accept our mail while Jay and I were at work and leave tiny notes on our door to let us know when we had a package. She always called me Kim, but I never corrected her because it kind of warmed my heart.

The apartment was a fair size for a one-bedroom, but it was old. The roof leaked, the air conditioner didn't work well, every wall and cabinet was painted with layers of thick, white paint. We had to share a garage with our neighbor, and although the parking was gated and our garage was locked, Jay's car was broken into and all his CDs were stolen. Although the actual apartments were gated, people would always wedge pieces of wood or paper into the gate so that it was never actually secure. Parking was outrageous, and there were times I'd have to drive around the block for a solid 20 minutes before finding a spot. I worked very late or very early, and had to walk in the dark to my car, which was often parked a block away and next to a vacant lot or liquor store. Suffice to say, it was bad news bears.

At a certain point, we were just ready to leave. Our roof leaked continually every time it rained (all over our fancy thrift store couches), our rent was raised twice in a little over a year, the neighborhood wasn't the best. We were making slightly more money after I switched jobs, and that was when we found the duplex.

We were in the duplex for more than eight years, and I still absolutely love that place. It was perfect in so many ways. It was small (still a one-bedroom) but had space for everything we needed. It had big windows, new carpet, granite countertops, and a tiny nook between the back door and our kitchen that made me happy. It was right on a busy street that had constant traffic, but when we were inside it felt safe and cozy and just like home.

I realize only now that we were so, so lucky with our neighbors. There was only one person who lived next to us for a short time that would smoke in his bathroom (we could smell the smoke) and talk loudly on his phone late at night just a few feet from our bedroom window (on speakerphone, nonetheless), but every other neighbor we had was rather quiet and normal and decent. Not to mention that for the majority of the time we lived there, our landlord lived in the duplex next to us. Soon after moving in, I added his number into my phone as Hunky Fireman Landlord, which I realize now was highly inappropriate, but was also highly accurate, so I'm willing to let it slide.

So many big moments happened while we lived in that duplex. We celebrated anniversaries and job changes. We made big purchases and had big arguments. I learned to be a better cook and Jay learned to be a better listener. We brought home our first daughter and survived the first days, weeks, months, and years of parenthood. I became a stay at home mom, Jay switched careers, we celebrated many birthdays and Christmas mornings. We found out we were expecting our second child, and that's when we realized that we had possibly outgrown our beloved rental. I remember crying my eyes out one night, worried that there was no way we could afford a decent two-bedroom apartment in a decent neighborhood. Jay started Uber driving a couple nights a week to make extra money. I lost years of my life running around city after city, looking at rental after rental, trying to find something that would work for us.

When I was nearly 9 months pregnant, I found an apartment in our price range that had two large bedrooms and was in what looked to be a friendly neighborhood. We moved in, and during the two weeks before I went into labor, I hastily unpacked boxes and decorated the walls and hung curtains and grew acquainted with our new surroundings.

It wasn't long before we realized why rent was so inexpensive for this particular apartment. Many of the neighbors were loud and often dreadful. Some mornings, we would wake up to see a fresh display of graffiti on the walls of the businesses behind our building. When I'd take the girls to play in a small grassy area near our apartment, we'd have to look out for glass bottles and lighters and dog poop and empty packaging for "medical" marijuana. Our garage lock was cut off in the middle of the day while we were out at lunch one Saturday, and we're grateful to have returned before anything was taken.

Almost daily, I'd hear one neighbor or another screaming at someone. They'd curse loudly at each other and smoke on their porches and I'd have to close the windows and find somewhere to take the girls where I hoped they wouldn't hear it. Front steps would be littered with beer cans and cigarette butts. One neighbor would always stand outside smoking after work, and he'd prefer to do this ritual shirtless. He was always nice, as were his wife and daughter, but when someone's stomach tattoos are staring me in the face day after day, I'm not sure I can act casual anymore.

The biggest struggle was with one specific neighbor, who I could possibly write an entire memoir on, but overall it breaks my heart to dwell on here. She is around my age and struggles with alcohol. When she was sober, it always caught me by surprise because she seemed like a completely different person. Someone I would be friends with, even. She was sweet with the girls and would sometimes bring gifts for Eisley. But the majority of the time, she drank.

She'd knock on our door at all hours and want to talk. She didn't have boundaries, and that combined with the drinking ended up being more than I could bear at one point. I have so many stories that are bizarre and frustrating (and sometimes scary) from the past year and a half of being her neighbor, but this doesn't seem to be the place to share those things in detail. But it did reach a point where she was pounding on our door late at night and my anxiety was higher than I think it has ever been in my entire life. I didn't feel safe in my own home. I was furious over what my daughters had witnessed due to her lifestyle (we couldn't leave the apartment without passing her door and there were countless times when she came to our door completely belligerent when the girls were present). I was crying and shaking and told Jay that I just couldn't do it anymore. I didn't know where we were going to go, but we couldn't stay there. That's when he said that maybe it was time for us to think about buying.

Five months later, we found our home. It feels like a miracle, and maybe it is. It was the only place we even considered putting an offer on, and it was so perfect that we thought there would be no chance we'd actually get it. But we did. We got it.

It's beautiful. It's a townhome, so it has two stories and feels like an actual house. It has a fireplace, an attached two-car garage, room for a washer and dryer (for the first time in my adult life!), laminate floors, a dishwasher, two big bedrooms, a front area for the girls to play with room for a garden, and is in a quiet (quiet!), gated community. I'll share more later, but the main point is that it was completely and utterly worth the wait. We haven't lived here long, but I love it more every single day. Living here feels like such a gift. A complete answer to prayer. I keep having moments where I can't believe we're actually living here. It's a little surreal being somewhere that I think we'd be happy staying for a long time.

So, here we are now. Happily so.

January 19, 2017

necessary craftiness (DIY felt bows)...

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I haven't had time to actually sit down and make something in ages. Which sometimes drives me crazy, because creating and writing and taking photos is very therapeutic and centering for me. I know there will be time for it all in the future at some point (possibly the near future, now that my youngest is starting to sleep better at night—knock on wood times a million).

Honestly, there are days when there is no time for anything aside from the must-dos. And sometimes I think about that saying that goes: You make time for the things you love. Heck, there are dozens of things I love that I can't make time for regularly. (There are even times I go way too many days without showering, but maybe I shouldn't admit that to the internet. Ah, mom life. Someone needs some dry shampoo up in here.)

But I digress.

I would like to revise the above saying to the following: You make time for the stuff you love most, especially your children and eating a hot breakfast every morning and reading books that make your soul happy and having an empty sink at the end of the day. Then sometimes you magically create time like some sort of wizard to do the things you love and have no actual time for. For me, these things include: reading magazines the month I receive them, crafting and creating, painting my nails, drinking a cup of coffee before it goes cold, time away with my husband, time away by myself, sitting down to focus on writing something more than a few small paragraphs.

For the past couple months, I've been in the midst of a rather intense organizing and simplifying of our apartment and the things inside, and I decided to pull out a box of felt I had tucked away in our closet—determined to find a way to actually make something out of it. I found a ridiculously simple tutorial for making felt hair bows and spent a couple evenings making a bunch of them.
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I recommend trying out this tutorial from Craftiness is Not Optional (this blogger has other free tutorials on her site that I love)! All you need is a printer to print out the pattern, a hot glue gun, some felt (I've ordered most of mine from Wool Felt Central), and whatever you'd like to glue your finished bow to (so far, I've used simple hair clips and some headband elastic). I think these bows turn out beautifully and end up making you feel like you've made something quite impressive, even though they're ridiculously simple and fool-proof.
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These sorts of projects are my favorite these days. And I'm always reminded of how much joy it brings me to create something. A lot of people are talking about things that give you life these days, and lately I'm much more aware of the things that give me energy and inspiration and joy. Creating is one of those things for me, and this year I'm determined to make it happen more often.

Further reading: pretty little (crocheted!) hair bows